Ask Brian: My daughter wants to teach, but her Irish is poor. What are her options?

A decent performance in the oral exam will go a long way to meeting entry requirements

Orals now account for 40 per cent of the overall marks in Irish.  Photo: iStock

Orals now account for 40 per cent of the overall marks in Irish. Photo: iStock


Question: My daughter has her heart set on becoming a primary school teacher and has opted to take Irish at higher level in the Leaving, even though it would not be one of her strongest subjects. She’s worried she might not secure the required grade. Have you any advice?

Answer: The Irish entry requirement for primary school teaching is now between 50-59 per cent, or a H5 under the new grading system. This replaces a C3, or 55-59 per cent, under the old system.

The orals now account for some 40 per cent of the overall marks in Irish, and if she performs well in this test, she will be well on her way to meeting this entry requirement.

Your daughter has a few weeks left to improve her proficiency as the oral tests which are due to commence on Monday, March 27th. The Irish oral lasts for only 15 minutes. The exam can be broken into three main parts. They are:

The welcome (five marks): your daughter says hello to the examiner, gives her name, age, address, birthday and exam number. Make sure she has this well prepared, as a good start will settle her nerves.

Poetry reading (35 marks): the examiner will choose one of five prescribed poems – Mo Ghrá-sa, Geibheann, Colscaradh, An tEarrach Thiar, or An Spailpín Fánach – for her to read. She must not forget to first read the title and poet’s name.

Picture stories (80 marks): the examiner will pick one of the 20 “sraith pictiurí” and she will be required to speak about what is going on in the picture.

It is really important that she is able to talk about each of the pictures in each sraith pictiúr. Then, she must ask the examiner three questions about the chosen sraith pictiúr. The examiner will then ask her three specific questions on the picture.

Conversation (120 marks): If all is going to plan, she should be finished her poem and sraith picturí with about eight minutes for the general conversation (comhrá) part of her exam.

She should try and lead the conversation to topics she is comfortable talking about. She needs to become comfortable around a range of topics or issues that an examiner might raise with her or allow her to introduce.

The only way you can do this is by practising discussing the issues outlined below in the appropriate language with a fellow student or a person with a fluency in Irish.

Typical issues include: yourself, your family, where you live, your past times or hobbies.

Sport in another key topic. Your daughter could think about her participation in sporting activities and sporting achievements (real or imagined).

School is another obvious topic: her school, the facilities it offers, the friends she has within school, the subjects she is studying, and what she likes most about her school.

Current affairs is also very important. In the light of the economic crisis at home and political change abroad, she should prepare to discuss these issues in general terms.